Wednesday, October 31, 2007

This is Halloween!

I am the "who" when you call, "Who's there?"
I am the wind blowing through your hair
I am the shadow on the moon at night
Filling your dreams to the brim with fright
This is Halloween, this is Halloween

from the Nightmare Before Christmas, Danny Elfman's lyrics

I love Halloween. I am of a certain (pre-middle) age and have fond recollections of childhood before the invention of play-dates, so I can empathise with Amy's great rant about the nerfing of Halloween. I can empathise, but I can't quite sing in her choir because I never experienced a free-wheeling, unchaperoned trick-or-treating extravaganza.

All of my candy-grabbing was done under the watchful eye of my mother, who worked as an emergency room nurse before I was born. Although her cautionary tales and rules allowed me to get to adulthood with all my fingers and toes and both eyes intact, I missed out on fun childhood activities like jumping off garage roofs, unescorted romps through the woods at the bottom of the street, and setting off firecrackers. (To be fair, I also never had to mow the lawn, but that's about the only fringe benefit I can think of.)

Even though my Halloween was supervised and the candy had to be thoroughly parentally examined before we could eat it, I still enjoyed Halloween. I loved the ritual of it. The costume selection. The trip to Mapleside to get pumpkins. The pumpkin carving (during which I tried to gross out my little brothers by squezing pumpkin guts through my fingers). The house on my grandmother's street where the woman made us sing for our candy.

It's the rituals that I've carried with me and have tried to replicate to some degree. Our first few Halloweens in Chicago were not observed. Then, in 2001, I decided I wanted an outing to a pumpkin farm. And so our yearly pilgrimage to Honey Hill Orchard was born. I selected it because it was the only pick-your-own-pumpkin patch in Northeastern Illinois, and it offered hay rides and a petting zoo.

Without a doubt, Halloweens when we owned our house deep in the heart of Republican DuPage County were the best. Not only did I get to participate in the pumpkin collecting and carving ritual that I'd grown to love, I also got to hand out candy. I loved seeing all the kids and I can't remember a single uncostumed one among them.

In Ireland, Halloween is a little bit different. I can't speak yet about what it's like in the Middle of Nowhere (they had a kid's party in the GAA hall last weekend), in Dublin, Halloween is loud and a little scary. Practically every neighbourhood green hosts a raging bonfire and it seems that everyone and his mother sets off firecrackers. All night long. I didn't see many trick-or-treaters when we lived in Dublin and not a single one ever came to our door. (Although we didn't really live in an area that had many kids in it.)

I miss the trips to Honey Hill Orchard so much. We're still carving pumpkins, but we just buy them in the grocery store. Plus, the pumpkins over here are disappointingly small because it just doesn't get hot enough to grow them properly. This year was particularly bad because the summer was so rainy, a lot of pumpkins didn't fully ripen. The selection in the Macroom Dunnes was so poor that I convinced Peter to take me to the Tesco in Killarney. (Which is not even remotely like Honey Hill.)

On the night we bought the pumpkins, we watched "The Nightmare Before Christmas" to get in the Halloween mood. I think that film will become an integral part of our new Halloween ritual. (I also think I am going to grow my own damn pumpkins next year.) Last Monday, we carved the pumpkins and we've been lighting them each evening for a few hours. I don't know if anyone can actually see them, but for me, the journey of the pumpkin is more exciting than the destination.

Peter's Pumpkin - stencil from Zombie Pumpkins

My Decent Pumpkin - stencil also from Zombie Pumpkins

My Crap-Yes-An-Adult-Did-That-Not-A-Child Pumpkin - stencil (which looked much better on paper) from The Pumpkin Lady

PS - The first time Toby saw the pumpkins, it was outside, after dark and the candles inside were lit. His hackles went up and he had some stern words for the intruders, until he'd had enough time to thoroughly check them out. It was quite funny. I didn't expect that sort of reaction.



At 31 October 2007 at 21:31, Anonymous Harlequin said...

Cool pumpkins. I was watching a Buffy episode the other day where the gang all carved pumpkins (except Buffy, who left hers as a freak without a face) and it made me wish that I'd bought one to decorate. I have never carved a pumpkin in my life but I keep meaning to. :-)

When I was a child, we didn't go trick or treating and we didn't get many trick or treaters because our road was poorly lit and had no footpath. Danger! Danger! So we stayed home and played all the games my mother had played during her rural Monaghan childhood. Saucers filled with things that told you your future - wedding rings for marriage, water for travel, earth for DEATH. Apple and grape bobbing - getting the grapes involved snorkeling since they sank to the bottom of the bowl. The swinging apple game that everyone found impossible except Mum who always trapped it against the doorframe. Peeling an apple and throwing the peel over your shoulder to read the initial of your future partner. Heavy apple theme generally. But also eating a huge variety of nuts and the usual fuss over how the hell to open the coconut.

I used to love Halloween - there was such a feeling of magic and mystery about it. But tonight I'm sitting home in my princess of darkness costume with heavy eye make-up, eating the orange-iced radioactive buns I made earlier and possibly watching Raising Helen on rte. The horror, the horror.

Happy Halloween!

At 1 November 2007 at 00:36, Anonymous Anonymous said...

THANK YOU for loving Halloween as much as I do and for keeping the spirit alive. Next time you're in the States, we'll smash at least one pumpkin and maybe TP someone's house. Even if it's not Halloween, we can always pretend. LOVE the pumpkins! Amy

At 1 November 2007 at 01:30, Blogger Kaycie said...

Gorgeous pumpkins! My little guy just got home from trick or treating with an enormous bag of candy. My husband said, "this is the best neighborhood ever!" when he saw it. My little one smiled from ear to ear. My big kids decided they were too old to go this year and just handed out the candy. Made me kinda sad. :(

At 1 November 2007 at 02:23, Blogger laurie said...

excellent pumpkins! my family used to have a pumpkin-carving competition (which i never, ever won) but it has sadly fallen by the wayside.

when i was little we were sent out into the neighborhood to trick or treat pretty much with no supervision and for as long as we wanted.

of course since it was duluth and nearly october, it was always freezing cold--the temperature would eventually send us back home again.

the best place to get candy was the bishop's house. it was only about three blocks from our house--a beautiful yellow brick mansion that has since been converted into a bed-and-breakfast--and while i never saw the actual bishop, i knew he lived there.

the candy was handed out by nuns in full nun garb: plastic bags filled with assorted brach's candies. it was like hitting an entire block with one doorbell.

we were always tempted to double back and get a second bag, but somehow we figured the bishop would know. almost certainly, God would tell him....

At 1 November 2007 at 07:30, Blogger -Ann said...

Harlequin - Those games sound like a great way to pass the evening. (And use up any over-supply of apples.)

Amy - It won't surprise you to hear that I've never TP'd anyone's house. I led such a sheltered life.

Kaycie - I'm glad to hear your little one had such a nice haul. I can see how your older kids deciding not to trick-or-treat would be sad.

Laurie - Not only would the bishop have known, a lighting bolt would have struck you as soon as you stepped into the yard the second time. You were wise to stay away. (And if the lightening didn't get you, the nuns and their rulers surely would have.)

At 1 November 2007 at 09:27, Blogger Fence said...

I second the "Cool Pumpkins" remark. I had intended to try my hand at carving some this year, but never got around to it. I remember one year my dad carved a turnip. Not quite the same effect :)
We used always go trick or treating, you'd get more money in Dublin, even back then, but it was darker and spookier in Sligo. Course I missed the bonfires. We'd spend weeks before hand collecting stuff to burn when I lived in Dublin, and they don't do that in Sligo.

At 1 November 2007 at 13:47, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have to get you photos (dad has some too) of Max as Jack Skellington. He was singing Nightmare Before Christmas song a few times last night. He was cute. I painted a Jack face on a white pumpkin. Looked pretty good. Max designed a two faced pumpkin that looked awesome.

At 1 November 2007 at 17:46, Blogger -Ann said...

Fence - I never understood how someone could carve a turnip. I can barely chop them without taking off my fingers. No bonfires here or firecrackers. It was kind of a relief after the overload of Dublin.

Shane - Please do. I'm anxious to see them.

At 4 November 2007 at 03:11, Blogger Career Guy said...

We had our poorest turnout ever this year-only about 25 kids. Usually it's 50 or 60. The oddest thing we saw was two parental units (male) walking down the sidewalk drinking beer!

At 5 November 2007 at 07:52, Blogger -Ann said...

Dad - Does the neighbourhood just have fewer kids in it these days?

At 5 November 2007 at 20:48, Blogger Bren said...

Cool pumpkins! Here in Texas, we paint them rather than carve them or they'd be rotten by Halloween. I really should start carving them with the kids a day or two before. They'd no doubt love it.

At 7 November 2007 at 19:43, Blogger -Ann said...

Bren - It's just not Halloween if you're not up to your elbows in Pumpkin Guts. (Although that's a good point about the rotting thing - I've never lived anywhere where that would be an issue.)


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